It might surprise you very little to learn that Pro Football Focus has taken little liking to the contract of Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons as they have marked a decline in his play over the course of the past few seasons, with last year being the worst, and yet his 2016 salary cap being the highest it’s ever been, dramatically higher than any other at his position.
Of course, that distinction comes with a somewhat large caveat, as his salary cap hit is a byproduct of multiple past restructures that have created nearly $7 million in dead money, with his actual salary only account for under $9 million of his total $15.1 million cap value.
Still, those restructures were not fabrications or magic, but rather legitimate reworkings of his contract, and so technically it must be regarded as his contract authentically, even though there is little to be done about it. It was the price that the front office chose to pay for having significantly lower cap hits on the first five years of Timmons’ contract.
Still, though, many would question whether he is even worth the base salary that he is being paid, if one considers the drop in his performance of late. While the raw statistics might not bear it out, PFF’s data tracking reveals that he missed 21 tackles a year ago, tied for the third-most at his position, and his low coverage grade corresponds to what we have seen on the field. His run stop percentage also bottomed out last season despite still being high the year before.
PFF was once quite a fan of Timmons, and several years ago regarded him as arguably the best inside linebacker in the league. The article even begins by describing him as “one of the better inside linebackers during the PFF era”, which coincidentally began in 2007, the year he was drafted.
It should be noted, however, that much of his worst struggles came early during the 2015 season, and he was at the time dealing with a turf toe injury that kept him out of most of training camp and all of the preseason. That no doubt lingered and affected his play for a time, if not the whole season.
He still recorded 119 tackles to go along with five sacks, a forced fumble, an interception, and six passes defensed, statistically a productive year on paper, but as mentioned, it doesn’t take into account the unrecorded statistics such as missed tackles and failures in coverage that have crept into his repertoire over recent years.
Because of the several restructures, Timmons’ cap hit is more than $5 million more than any other inside linebacker, according to the article, though his actual base salary would represent a far more palatable ranking within the broader pool of players.
I think it is safe to say that this will be an interesting season for Timmons, who has previously expressed his desire to retire as a Steeler. At the moment, it appears he will play out this season, and no doubt hopes to sign another contract in the spring, but that may be decided by what this season holds.